Glossary of Fine Art

The purpose of this book is to be an instant, working glossary of terms for Fine Art students within Byam Shaw School of art, London. The language used in crits, tutorials, critical reviews, and interviews with artists shifts with usage, history and context. This glossary is in continuous flux, needing constant updates and information, in order to open up a conversation around these terms, to pin point what they mean at a particular moment, and within the context of university at Byam Shaw.
The instant, decentralised medium of Wikibooks is the perfect arena to open up this dialog. A printed, bound book would not only be problematic to produce, but very difficult to sustain. Students might have less input and responsibility, and the whole project would be sluggish. By publishing this list on the internet, however, the language can be instantly documented by anyone who has an interest in the project, and easily accessed by students and staff. This medium allows for a comprehensive description of a word to be built by as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and creates and elastic, diverse voice within the discourse.
Some suggested approaches to defining terms might include writing about the history of the word, and what context it was used in eg., in London, in a tutorial, or to describe a particular work. Another approach might be to write how the term was used, if it was used ironically, or how the word was interpreted and put into practice- the outcome or practical experience of the term. (Eg., how you interpreted someone telling you your work ought to be more 'process driven,' and what you produced around that idea.) This is an experiment, and any contribution to the conversation is appreciated. Words are ephemeral, decentralized, irregular and evade definition. Creative or experimental writing for these articles is warmly welcomed.
Below are some suggested terms that need clarifying and editing, but additional words are welcome.

Table of contents edit

Process edit

  • Process, broadly, is a series of actions and reactions.
  • It is a way of interacting with materials in a way that allows for an open conversation and an unknown outcome.
  • It is a working method. It is an approach to creating work.
  • It is the opposite of thinking of an idea, and following the idea through with no alterations or amendments from conception to realization.
  • Process means you make room in your work for ‘happy accidents’ or interruptions; for example, in printmaking, there is sometimes ‘found writing’ on a print plate where an accidental, or unintentional scratch has occurred.
  • Process can be a way of generating ideas; for example, you might not know what to write about in your essay until you’ve begun to write it, and the words begin to suggest form and content.
  • Process means sometimes getting de-railed or redirected by drips, holes, sloshes, scratches or tears, or the way paper moves, or how metal bends, or in what way cement dries; it means being open to what materials might suggest the next move to be, leaving the materials a generous amount of space to direct the work.
  • Process is a way of encountering otherness, a way of dialoguing outside of oneself.

Collaborative edit

Collaboration is when two or more people work together; it is a sharing of ideas and expertise.

Filmic edit

Having the qualities or characteristics of a film; grainy; framed; emotive; a mechanical stillness.

Mawkish edit

Sentimental; in bad taste. An over simplified, melodramatic way of explaining reality; you might say the Jeremy Kyle show was mawkish, or Disney films.

Avant Garde edit

Ahead of the times. Innovative. Experimental. A work that is described as being "avant-garde" is thought to be pushing the boundaries of a style or medium beyond the conventional and into a new, unexplored territory.

Frame (verb) edit

To frame something is to construct a set of parameters in order to explore a concept. For example, you might frame a discussion about Francis Bacon in terms of the sacred and the profane, and use those terms as a way of interpreting the imagery and initiating a discussion. Framing gives ideas a motor by constructing a single viewpoint to focus on, and by privileging some content over other content as a means of systematising and extracting further content.

Crafty edit

Usually used as a criticism. Used to describe an object that relies heavily or exclusively on the language and materials of craft, or has a 'country' or 'traditional' or ' handmade' aesthetic. in the past, 'craft' has been a way of separating 'high art' and 'low art', terms coined during the Modernist period to distinguish supposedly superior or inferior aims and methods in art. But now, perhaps the criticism in the word 'craft' has shifted to imply chliched use of 'traditional' art school materials such as wood, plaster, printmaking, steel etc. and a lack of engagement with new media, technology and methods.

Figurative edit

The space in between edit

A felt tension between two objects in a space. Strtegically placed objects that have a relationship to one another. A bus trundling towards a burning cigarette on Shoreditch High Street at dusk.

Crit edit

Wider context edit

Creating work to engage with a wider context, as opposed to a subjective, individual context, an 'ivory tower', where art does not reference anything outside of itself. Considering a wider context for your work means looking around you and noticing what you look at and interact with every day, from East Enders and popular TV programs, to crisp packets. Newspapers, your walk to college, manufacturing methods, systems, commercials, jokes, where William Blake walked in London, pseudo nostalgic journals sold at Paperchase, cheap meat at Tesco, plasma TVs, the war in Iraq, all of these things are the wider context which you may want to place your art into. How you place your work- how you reference wider culture and practices- is what an art degree is for.

Dialog with materials edit

Dry edit

Bitty edit

Refers to undeveloped work. Scraps of thoughts, initial sketches or ideas, objects or images not pushed to their limit. A piece of art that hasn't filled out or reached it's full potential. Developing an idea fully can take years, and some times ' bits' is all you have. However, when an idea or object or image is 'bitty' it can be stretched a little more, experimented with a little more, and translated into different media a little more to make use of its full content.

Abstract edit

>> An abstract is a self-contained, short, and powerful statement that describes a larger work. Components vary according to discipline; an abstract of a social science or scientific work may contain the scope, purpose, results, and contents of the work. An abstract of a humanities work may contain the thesis, background, and conclusion of the larger work. An abstract is not a review, nor does it evaluate the work being abstracted. While it contains key words found in the larger work, the abstract is an original document rather than an excerpted passage.

>> Consider a concept without thinking of a specific example; consider abstractly or theoretically pilfer: make off with belongings of others existing only in the mind; separated from embodiment; "abstract words like `truth' and `justice'" Consider apart from a particular case or instance; "Let's abstract away from this particular example" abstraction: a concept or idea not associated with any specific instance; "he loved her only in the abstract--not in person" not representing or imitating external reality or the objects of nature; "a large abstract painting" Outline: a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory dealing with a subject in the abstract without practical purpose or intention; "abstract reasoning"; "abstract science"

Formal edit

Ironic edit

Real edit

Authentic edit

Experiment edit

Indexical Trace edit

An indexical sign in semiotics is a physical sign that can bear no resemblance to the object that is signified, but that has a sensory feature that POINTS TO the signified, i.e., a smell, or a physical reaction such as a sign that is produced by the signified. For example, a weather vane (sign) being moved by the wind (signified), used to signify wind. Or squeaking floorboards might signify the presence of a person. The concept of an indexical trace was introduced in a series of lectures by Paul Kane at Camberwell College of arts in 2007 to describe the relationship between photography, traces of dust and existentialism. Photographs of Duchamp’s studio, photographed by Man Ray were shown; they were covered in dust, residues interested Duchamp as a sign to signify passing time, the ephemeral and even existence itself.